After a long, strange trip, festivals are back—and New Jersey is ready to rock!
We’ve put together a list of 40+ can’t-miss festivals taking place this summer and early fall, from musical gatherings to food-focused events to everything in between. There are festivals that have rightfully gained a following, like the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, Sourland Mountain Festival and Maplewoodstock; events that celebrate local seafood and wine, such as Point Pleasant’s Festival of the Sea and Seaside Heights’ Wine on the Beach; plus art fairs, sand-sculpting competitions, and even one festival that’s all about dogs.
When & Where: June 16-19; 3601 Boardwalk, Wildwood
The Scoop: Some of country music’s biggest stars are packing the beach in the Wildwoods for this hotly anticipated festival. Now in its second year, the four-day event features five stages and over 30 artists—all stretched along 27 acres of beach.
Who’s Playing: Eric Church, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Rita Wilson, Cole Swindell and more.
Pro Tips: A shuttle is set to run along Ocean Avenue from Diamond Beach to Olde New Jersey Avenue during the festival. Discounts are offered to concertgoers who are in the military. —Julie Gordon
When & Where: Various dates in July; Lincoln Park, Newark
The Scoop: The 15th annual outdoor bash hosts a variety of musical genres, from house music to gospel and soul.
Who’s Playing: A diverse range of African-American and Afro-Caribbean artists.
Pro Tips: Bring chairs. These free, rain-or-shine events draw crowds, so come early for street parking. Area paid parking lots are available. Food vendors are on hand, too. —Deborah P. Carter
When & Where: July 8-10; Anglesea Volunteer Fire Co, North Wildwood
The Scoop: What started as a fundraiser for a local firehouse is now—24 years later—one of the preeminent barbecue competitions (and places to sample the cuisine) in the region. At the free, six-block-long event, attendees can try barbecue from competitors and food from other vendors, as well as watch the chefs do their thing. For the full scoop on the festival, click here.
What’s Cooking: 68 pitmasters from all over the region and beyond will be vying for the top prize. (More than $10,000 is up for grabs, and for the Grand Champion, a chance at competing at the American Royale in Kansas City, aka the Superbowl of Barbecue.) One familiar name to New Jerseyans is Local Smoke. Now a restaurant chain with four brick-and-mortar locations and two seasonal pop-ups, the team got its start at the Wildwood festival in 2009 and hopes to win for the fifth time this year.
Pro Tip: The event is being held in conjunction with the Angelsea Blues Festival, so great tunes are being served up alongside great food. The music takes place at one end of the event, and the competitors are set up at the other. —Georgia Kral
When & Where: July 9–10; Memorial Park, Maplewood
The Scoop: In 2004, a group of bands from the Maplewood/South Orange area were looking for somewhere to play. Inspired by 1969’s famed Woodstock, they decided to put on their own all-day concert in Maplewood’s Memorial Park and dubbed it Maplewoodstock. Little did the founding members realize they were launching an event that would become an annual Essex County fixture. For more on this festival, click here.
Who’s Playing: Funk Yeah, a band of alumni from groups Tower of Power, Blood Sweat and Tears, Toto, Aaron Neville, and more; Friends of the Brothers, who celebrate the music of the Allman Brothers Band; New Orleans-based instrumental ensemble Galactic.
Pro Tips: Many attendees watch the music from a hill overlooking the stage, allowing good sightlines for all. Others like to stand down in front to check out the bands up close or to dance. Bring a blanket or lawn chair. —Michael Levine
When & Where: Soundcheck Series concerts on July 13 & 27, Block Party on August 13, and Downtown Jamboree on September 10; Lackawanna Plaza, Montclair
The Scoop: The Soundcheck Concerts kick off the free festival with outdoor performances from top regional jazz artists and those who were students at Montclair’s Jazz House program. August’s Block Party is an all-day, music-centric affair, while the Jamboree features music and more.
Who’s Playing: Top regional jazz artists and up-and-comers.
Pro Tip: Be prepared to do some walking between the different stages at the Jamboree. The distance is about half a mile. —Thomas Neira
When & Where: July 23; Unionville Vineyards, Ringoes
The Scoop: This festival in the mountains is both fun and philanthropic, thanks to host Sourland Conservancy, a nonprofit that aims to protect the local environment. Proceeds go toward climate causes, including saving trees at risk of destruction. The organization also attempts to produce zero waste at the event by recycling, composting and reducing packaging.
Who’s Playing: Jersey acts the Outcrops, Rainbow Fresh, and James Popik & Supernova are headlining.
Pro Tip: Pack your own lawn chairs and blankets. —Falyn Stempler
When & Where: July 29; Stone Pony Summer Stage, Asbury Park
The Scoop: Get caught up in your emotions with a view of the beach. With a focus on rock, emo and pop-punk music, this daylong touring festival is sure to excite—and possibly bum out—angsty attendees.
Who’s Playing: Waterparks, Neck Deep and Mayday Parade are headlining. The lineup also includes State Champs and Hot Mulligan.
Pro Tip: Want to make it a musical weekend in Asbury Park? Slightly Stoopid takes the Stone Pony Summer Stage on Saturday, July 30—the day after Sad Summer. —Gary Phillips
When & Where: August 12-14; One Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic City
The Scoop: This three-day festival on the Atlantic City beach features some of the biggest names in country music and promising up-and-comers.
Who’s Playing: Luke Bryan, Morgan Wallen and Dierks Bentley are among those headlining. The lineup also includes Hardy, Tracy Lawrence, Lauren Alaina and Breland.
Pro Tip: TidalWave has partnered with Caesars, the Hard Rock and the Tropicana for passes and hotel packages. —TN
When & Where: August 20; 108 West Central Avenue, Wharton
The Scoop: This old-timey, country fair-style festival includes two stages for musical performances, kayak and boat rides, arts and crafts vendors, a blacksmith demonstration, pony and hay rides, and fireworks.
Who’s Playing: Ten local acts
Pro Tip: Parking with shuttle service to the venue is available at 105 W. Dewey Avenue, Wharton, for $5 per car. —DPC
When & Where: August 19–21; Asbury Lanes and the Asbury Hotel, Asbury Park
The Scoop: Hosted by local record label Hi-Tide Recordings, this three-day extravaganza—returning after a two-year hiatus—features musical performances on Friday and Saturday, pool parties on Saturday and Sunday, rooftop happy hours, record hops, a vendor market, half-priced bowling at Asbury Lanes and more.
Who’s Playing: Los Straitjackets and Southern Culture on the Skids are headlining. Televisionaries, Black Flamingos, and Charlie Halloran & the Tropicales are also performing.
Pro Tip: Leave the kids with a sitter—admission is 18-plus. —Jennifer Finn
When & Where: August 27; the Great Lawn at the Boardwalk, Long Branch
The Scoop: This free community tradition, now 22 years strong, features legendary and contemporary jazz and blues music. Enjoy live music, food, crafts, kids’ activities, fireworks, dancing and fun for the entire family from 1-9 pm.
Who’s Playing: This year’s bands include the Burners, Bethe Burns & the Legends, Paul Plumeri, Charlie Apicella & Iron City Jazz, Sonny Kenn Band, and the headliner, Ghost Town Blues Band.
Pro Tip: It’s being held rain or shine—unless there’s a hurricane. —Jacqueline Mroz
When & Where: September 2-4; Salem County Fairgrounds, Woodstown
The Scoop: This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the festival (located in Woodstown since 1990), which features a mix of national and regional bluegrass artists in a rural atmosphere. Musical tributes are planned for festival founders Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley. A children’s stage offers entertainment for the younger crowd. Attendees can get in the act by participating in clogging workshops and a jam class with musicians.
Who’s Playing: Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Del McCoury Band, and Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper headline. Seldom Scene, Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands, Claire Lynch, and Tuba Skinny, among others, are appearing, too.
Pro Tips: Attendees who buy full weekend tickets can camp in the rough on the festival grounds for free. The festival is an all-weather event, so come prepared. —Tom Wilk
When & Where: September 16-18; Waterfront Music Pavilion, Camden
The Scoop: For 28 years, this festival has delivered on its promise to host artists old and new. An eclectic lineup is performing on two stages, giving listeners a chance to hear established acts as well as up-and-comers.
Who’s Playing: The War on Drugs, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Patti Smith & Her Band, The Revivalists, Geese, and Snacktime are headlining.
Pro Tip: Can’t make it? Check out xpnfest.org/watch to jam out to high-quality recordings of the live performances. —FS
When & Where: September 17; Morristown Green, Morristown
The Scoop: Fans of all ages are welcome at the 11th annual gathering, which is located in the center of historic Morristown. This year’s festival pays tribute to two of its founders, Linda Smith and Michael Fabrizio, who passed away in 2021.
Who’s Playing: The festival features world-renowned jazz artists in the afternoon and blues stars in the evening.
Pro Tip: Bring your blankets and chairs for this popular, free day of tunes. —JM
When & Where: September 17-18, Asbury Park
The Scoop: This beachside festival has been attracting artists, surfers, superstar musicians and roughly 35,000 people to Asbury Park’s waterfront since 2018. Enjoy the sun and all kinds of music across three stages.
Who’s Playing: Stevie Nicks and Green Day are headlining, but a talented and diverse undercard includes, but is not limited to, Cage The Elephant, The Head And The Heart, Gary Clark Jr. and My Morning Jacket.
Pro Tips: In addition to a stellar musical lineup, Sea Hear Now also features a surfing competition, an art gallery and food options from across the Jersey Shore. To read more about the festival, click here. —GP
When & Where: September 23; Waterfront Music Pavilion, Camden
The Scoop: This festival features country and alt-country singers, as well as American roots-rock bands, including a chance to see the legendary Willie Nelson.
Who’s Playing: Willie Nelson & Family and Chris Stapleton are the main draws, but Zach Bryan, Larkin Poe and Brittney Spencer are also getting in on the waterside festivities.
Pro Tip: VIP packages include premium seats and merch. —JM
When & Where: September 24; Orange Loop Amphitheater, Atlantic City
The Scoop: This brand-new festival features some of the biggest names in underground indie rock and punk music.
Who’s Playing: Hoboken natives Yo La Tengo, Car Seat Headrest, Snail Mail, the Raveonettes and more.
Pro Tip: Enjoy the rest of your day at the famed Boardwalk (the country’s first), which is only a short walk away. —TN
FOOD & DRINK FESTIVALS
When & Where: June 24-26; Sussex County Fairgrounds, Augusta
The Scoop: Crack open a cold one at the 12th annual Rock, Ribs & Ridges Festival, where good music and good food are equally important.
What’s Cooking: Rockers like Dave Mason, Don Felder and Artimus Pyle are playing, while some of the country’s top barbecue pitmasters are dishing out classics like ribs, pulled pork, cornbread, and mac and cheese.
Pro Tips: Camp out or park your RV for the entire weekend; campers get special perks like a campers-only concert and a bonfire on Friday night. Campgrounds are only a three-minute walk from the festivities. —Falyn Stempler
When & Where: July 16-17; Showboat Hotel, Atlantic City
The Scoop: The two-day festival, put on by the Vegan Local, has delicious vegan and plant-based eats from local chefs.
What’s Cooking: All of your favorite dishes—but vegan! That means vegan fried chicken, donuts, macaroni and cheese, and more.
Pro Tips: Tickets are $10 for one day and $15 for two. Food is sold by vendors. —Maggie Leenas
When & Where: July 23; 1048 Washington Street, Cape May
The Scoop: Looking for a cold brew with your crustaceans? This Cape May festival has you covered. Enjoy crab and craft beers, in addition to food trucks and live, outdoor music.
What’s Cooking & Pouring: Attendees can purchase a seemingly endless supply of hard-shell crabs, which are covered in seasoning and come with a mallet, plus craft beer.
Pro Tips: Admission is free, and well-behaved dogs are welcome. Bring blankets or chairs to cool off in a shady spot. —GP
When & Where: July 30-31; Monmouth Park Race Track, Oceanport
The Scoop: Monmouth Park is serving up all things Italian from more than a dozen of the area’s top restaurants and food-truck vendors. The two-day event includes wine tastings, live music from the Garden State Groove (Saturday) and West End Dogs (Sunday), family fun and more.
What’s Cooking & Pouring: The Zeppole Guys, Twisted Steaks, the Little Sicilian Riceballs, Enzo’s Pizza and Subs, and more are serving. Opici Wines is hosting Italian wine tastings. Admission is $6, and food and drinks are sold separately.
Pro Tip: Come for the food and stay for the races. Monmouth Park’s first horse race of the day is at 12:15 pm. —ML
When & Where: August 5-7; Huddy Park, Highlands
The Scoop: The clams and other seafood come from nearby bay and ocean waters and are as tasty as anywhere on the East Coast. Beyond the clams, people return year after year because of the welcoming nature of this hardworking bayside town.
What’s Cooking: Clammer Bill Mount is just one of the vendors; two days before the fest, he takes his boat into Raritan Bay and rakes up more than 2,000 hard clams, which he and his family steam, season and sell at the festival.
Pro Tip: Highlands Mayor Carolyn Broullon says the best time to come is 4 pm Saturday, when the food lines naturally ebb, but the live music flows. To read more about the festival, click here.—R.C. Staab
When & Where: August 6; Manahawkin Lake Park, Manahawkin
The Scoop: Split into two timed sections, one 12-4 pm and the second 5-9 pm, the festival is a great chance to sip local brews and soak in the summer sun down the Shore. Live music and food trucks are also on site all day. At the end of the event, one lucky brewery is crowned the “Manahopking”—or king of the brews—for a grand prize of $1,000. Tickets are on sale online.
What’s Pouring: Between 25 and 30 local breweries are attending this year, including ManaFirkin, Backward Flag, Pinelands Brewing Company and last year’s “Manahopking,” Three 3’s Brewing in Hammonton.
Pro Tip: Dogs are welcome, so pack up your furry pals along with your human ones for this event. (For a list of dog-friendly restaurants and bars in Jersey, click here.) —ML
When & Where: August 13-14; Monmouth Park Race Track, Oceanport
The Scoop: Shore-goers are in for more than a day at the races at Monmouth Park’s annual seafood fest. Over 20 food vendors offer fresh seafood and more treats. The first race of the day kicks off at 12:15 pm.
What’s Cooking: Fare from Sherri’s Crab Cakes, Cousins Maine Lobster, Strollo’s Lighthouse and more.
Pro Tips: Tickets are $6 per person (food and drinks sold separately) and free parking is available. —ML
When & Where: August 13; Strangl Road, Flemington
The Scoop: This festival is exactly what it sounds like: a celebration of all things corn, tomato and beer, plus live music thrown in for good measure.
What’s Cooking & Pouring: Local chefs prepare dishes primarily made with locally grown corn and tomatoes. There’s plenty of craft beer to wash everything down.
Pro Tip: Like what you drink at the festival? Your next stop should be the nearby Hunterdon County Beer Trail. —TN
When & Where: September 10; Sussex County Fairgrounds, Augusta
The Scoop: In the mood for an all-day, non-stop taco party? The Sussex County Fairgrounds is hosting Jersey’s seventh annual taco festival. Aside from a plethora of taco options, the event includes a pepper-eating contest, the “spicy taco of hell” challenge and a Chihuahua costume contest.
What’s Cooking: Beef, chicken, pork, seafood and veggie tacos are up for eats. A carefully selected judging panel chooses the area’s best taco in those five categories.
Pro Tips: General admission tickets can be purchased in advance or are $15 at the door. All children 10 and under are free. VIP tix are available for $40-plus and come with taco and beer tokens. —ML
When & Where: September 10-11; South Beach, Seaside Heights
The Scoop: Lounge with a glass of wine on the sand while enjoying live music. Food is available.
What’s Pouring: Tastings and sales of award-winning New Jersey wines from spots including Wagonhouse Winery, Terra Nonno Winery and Villari Vineyards.
Pro Tip: Be on the lookout for ticket sales starting in August. —FS
When & Where: September 17; Arnold and Bay avenues, Point Pleasant
The Scoop: More than 250 vendors and restaurants are set to serve up seafood, including crab cakes, lobster, paella and soups. Vendors will also sell handmade wares, and several bands are performing.
What’s Cooking: Grab chow from Point Lobster Co. Lines are always long for the lobster rolls, but it’s worth it. Spike’s Fish Market impresses with its clam chowder, and Shore Fresh Seafood Market is a must for clam strips.
Pro Tips: Arrive early, as this is one popular event. If you have an aversion to seafood, there are other options. —EC
When & Where: September 25; White Street parking lot, Red Bank
The Scoop: This street festival showcases the town’s restaurants and offers live music on two stages.
What’s Cooking & Pouring: Expect a culinary feast with Guinness beer and fresh oysters, as well as other fare from local restaurants, including fried oysters and lobster rolls.
Pro Tips: Admission is $5 for anyone over age 10. No dogs. The festival is a fundraiser for Red Bank RiverCenter. —JM
When & Where: October 1; Taylor Avenue Ball Field, Beach Haven
The Scoop: Eager taste testers flock to Long Beach Island well after Labor Day for the annual Chowderfest.
What’s Cooking: The free bayfront event features seafood- and veggie-laden stews, lovingly cooked up by local restaurateurs who all swear their recipes reign supreme. Winners are announced at the festival’s end.
Pro Tip: Too hungry to wait until October? Beginning Labor Day weekend, you can partake in the Chowder Trail by sampling and voting on chowders. —JF
Hungry for more? Tons of food truck festivals are popping up all over the state this summer. Click here for an at-a-glance guide.
MORE SUMMER FESTIVALS
When & Where: July 8; Heather Road, Wildwood Crest
The Scoop: You’ve never seen sandcastles quite like the ones at this beach festival. In fact, the sandy works of art are hardly limited to castles. Watch as dragons, dolphins, crabs and more take shape in the sand. Feeling creative? The contest, hosted by professional sand sculptor Matt Long, is open to amateurs and semi-pros alike. Don’t want to dig? There are also beach games and live music.
Pro Tips: Sand sculptures are judged on creativity, execution, composition and overall presentation. Prizes go to the top three winners in each division. —GP
When & Where: July 16; Atlantic Highlands Marina, Atlantic Highlands
The Scoop: This annual (and free) outdoor film festival presents family-friendly short films submitted from all over the globe. With the flicks clocking in at under two minutes each and sorted into categories covering nearly all genres, the event has something to offer all types of moviegoers.
Pro Tips: Bring your own lawn chairs and blankets, and get there early for a good seat. —TN
When & Where: July 16; Glassboro Town Square, Glassboro
The Scoop: Artists of all stripes showcase their wares at this evening street festival. Painters, sculptors, metalsmiths, glassblowers, woodworkers and many other handcrafters give demonstrations and offer insight on their work. Food vendors, a beer garden and circus performers add to the festivities.
Pro Tips: This event is rain or shine. There’s free parking. —DPC
When & Where: July 29-31, Solberg Airport, Readington
The Scoop: This longstanding New Jersey tradition is full of hot air. Watch as approximately 100 hot air balloons take off in mass ascensions. Festival-goers can purchase rides in the balloons, and a concert lineup features several recognizable names.
Who’s Playing: Todd Rundgren, Kansas, Collective Soul and children’s favorite Laurie Berkner are all gracing the stage. A handful of tribute bands are playing the festival as well.
Pro Tips: Interested in a balloon ride but scared of going up, up and away? There is a tethered ride option for those who are afraid of heights. To read more about the festival, click here. —GP
When & Where: July 30; Veterans Park, Bayville
The Scoop: Free family fun is on tap at this music-and-wellness-focused fest. There are treasure hunts, yoga, an array of classes, workshops and music for folks of all ages.
Pro Tip: Even though the event is free, bring some bucks since there are vendors selling farm goods, as well as some cool silent auctions. —Ed Condran
When & Where: August 5-7, boardwalk in Ocean City
The Scoop: Expect a myriad of paintings, photography and jewelry at this upscale boardwalk arts festival (and, appropriately, upscale price tags). That said, prepare for a relaxed event with people strolling slowly through the art. There are plenty of rest areas to take a break if you need a moment to relax. A number of the gifted artists return each year, since much of the same clientele comes back.
Pro Tips: Don’t forget the sunblock. You’ll be on the boardwalk longer than you think, since there is an abundance of art on display. Although it’s an upscale event, there could be some deals to be made on Sunday. —EC
When & Where: August 20-21; Haddon Avenue, Collingswood
The Scoop: Enjoy this juried show of more than 125 craft and fine artists vending pottery, stained glass, fashion, jewelry, artisan soaps, paintings, photography and other art. The event also features Happening on Haddon, a collaboration of 30-plus eateries and food vendors. Live music and family-fun activities like face painting are also on tap.
Pro Tips: Parking is available at the PATCO High Speed line lot, as well as several parking lots on N. Atlantic. Free street parking is also an option. —DPC
When & Where: September 2-5; Naval Station, Cape May Airport
The Scoop: The action isn’t limited to the sky at this 26th annual festival. Flights are periodic. However, there is much to experience, and aircrafts fly between Cape May Point and Stone Harbor. A Tuskegee Airman is set to speak on Saturday, and World War II veterans are expected to be on hand. A PBY Catalina, a unique transport aircraft designed to land on water or land, is worth eyeballing. There are also static planes that will not be airborne on display. It’s an upbeat festival, but it’s also solemn since 42 men died on the base during World War II, when the airport used to be a naval base. Admission is $16 for adults, $14 for kids 3-12, and free for kids under 3.
Pro Tips: If you would like to experience some of the vintage planes in flight, arrive between 10 am and 2 pm. Friendly, leashed dogs are welcome. There is parking throughout the airport. There is a shuttle that stops throughout the complex. There are wheelchairs for those who require assistance. —EC
When & Where: September 17; Campus Town at the College of New Jersey, Ewing Township
The Scoop: DogFest is a paw-some day of fun for the whole family, including your pup. This festival is meant to celebrate your favorite four-legged friends and all the joy they bring to your life. The day includes speakers, training demonstrations, a doggie costume contest and opportunities to fundraise for Canine Companions, a group whose mission is to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by providing expertly trained service dogs, free of charge.
Pro Tips: Registration is free. When signing up, be sure to note if you are bringing your dog. Those who do receive a free DogFest bandana for their pet. —GP
When & Where: September 24; Liberty State Park, Jersey City
The Scoop: The Water Lantern Festival—which is hosted in various cities throughout the country, including Jersey City this September—bills itself as a family-friendly event for people to “come together to create a peaceful, memorable experience” filled with “fun, happiness and hope.” It is inspired by ancient practices in Asia, and attendees are tasked with writing their hopes and dreams or letters to loved ones on the lanterns. Attendees then release the lanterns and watch them drift softly into the water. Food will be available for purchase; there will also be live music.
Pro Tip: Pack your own blankets and chairs to sit in the park and take in the beauty of the lanterns. —FS
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